US (dir. Toby Wilkins)
Cast: Charles Baker, Jill Wagner, Laurel Whitsett, Paulo Costanzo
Synopsis: A young couple retreats to the wilderness for a romantic camping weekend, but their idyll is shattered when they are car-jacked by an escaped convict and his girlfriend on the run from the police. As the foursome travel the back roads together, each plotting their next move, they find themselves in deeper trouble than any of them could have imagined–a blood-crazed, parasitic creature that absorbs the corpses of its victims has laid claim to the woods, and the two couples are now in its sights. Finding shelter at an abandoned gas station, they must use their wits and every weapon at their disposal to stave off the onslaught, not only from the insatiable creature, but also each other.
Review: Splinter starts off as a potentially painful paint-by-the-numbers horror movie. It follows the typical “perfect getaway is destroyed by INSERT PROBLEM” theme. In fact, the writers probably just relied on the old fill in the blanks screenplay scam: “A young couple in their early, mid, late twenties head out for a romantic camping trip/cottage weekend/boat cruise/deer hunt when their plans are drastically altered by zombies/werewolves/vampires/drugged out bad guys.” Seriously. The intro plots of horror movies these days is becoming that formulaic. And yes, the beginning of Splinter follows the fill-in-the-blanks plot to a tee. There’s even the cutesy inclusion of the fact that maybe the couple will decide to get hitched this weekend (maybe). Awww.
Generic introduction aside, the rest of the movie moves at a nice, tight pace. Bad guys hijack yuppie couple. Foursome end up awkwardly driving around the country (awkward because the male good guy, played by the always funny/cutesy Paulo Costanzo, isn’t really man enough to take charge of the situation and his girl ends up doing 99% of the negotiating and commandering). Car breaks down after running over a dog (?). Foursome end up at a seemingly deserted gas station looking for help. Initiate horror sequence…. NOW. What follows is the wonderful revelation that the gas station attendant is infected with a whole bunch of freakish splinters and is begging for death. After he attacks the crackwhore kidnapper (who is seriously tripping balls for most of the beginning), the other three shack up in the gas station. Thus initiates the survival sequence.
Initially you would assume the yuppie couple would manage to outsmart their kidnapper and lock him out of the store, but the boyfriend is too much of a pussy to even attempt doing that. Crackwhore kidnapper girl gets infected with the splinters after being attacked and becomes reanimated by the splinters, with wonderful results. You get to see her in sort of a zombie-ish state, slamming her head against the gas station door, trying to get in to feed on the blood of the living. The makeup and special effects are incredibly good considering the low budget nature of this movie. Additonally, a scene involving a rescue cop coming to save the day is just wonderful because we get to see the cop literally ripped into two pieces. And the best part is that the camera doesn’t veer away at this point, but actually shows it closeup in all its bloody gory. Wonderfully done, really.
Now while I must admit, it was neat seeing the kidnapper and the kidnappees bonding with each other in their attempt to stay alive, it seemed a bit phony having the kidnapper reveal himself as being this criminal with a heart of gold, especially when just 30 minutes earlier he was pointing a gun at a woman’s head and shoving her roughly into a car. It does make sense in one way or another after the kidnapper reveals why he needed to hijack their car, but it just didn’t seem believable to me. After getting over the whole gushy “let’s all bond” moment (likely a result of Stockholm Syndrome), nerdy yuppie boy (who is revealed to be a PhD student majoring in biology… woot!) starts analyzing the splinter situation and makes the realization that the splinters are really some sort of parasitic mold that feeds off blood and hunts by seeking out heat. With this new information, the threesome decide it will be best if one of them keep’s their body heat below 25 degrees Celsius but above 19 degrees Celsius and make a run for the car belonging to the cop who was just ripped in two. And before you can say, “Hey doesn’t that sound like that movie Speed?” the PhD student yuppie guy starts applying beer cans and ice packs around his body to assist in the temperature drop. And then before you can say “Hey, why are you assuming the car has the keys in the ignition?” the guy runs out to the car, and alas, no keys in the ignition (DUH!). Why is it that in horror movies, people neaturally assume that a car always has the keys dangling in the ignition? Does this happen regularly in the US? Because it never happens in my neck of the woods.
Anyways, the rest of the movie progresses nicely. There’s a big human versus splinter showdown (involving a remarkably cheesy severed hand) and there’s a nice satisfying ending. It’s likely one of the best monster movies I have ever seen, and definitely worth checking out once.